Since 1998 EA Sports has had the exclusive rights to the FIFA World Cup video games. However, due to the dominance of the PES series during those years these games were often overlooked by the soccer purists and sales were usually dependent on a younger audience and those who wanted a game to enhance their World Cup fever. Times have changed though and EA Sports now stands tall as the publisher of the king of soccer games, due to the success of FIFA 09 and even more so FIFA 10. Naturally the expectations for this year’s exclusive World Cup game were exceedingly high, particularly since the last time EA produced a specific tournament titled game, EURO 2008, it was received pretty well. In steps Simon Humber (and his team) to take up the challenge of delivering a soccer title that will fill us with excitement levels to match those we feel once the tournament kicks off.
So, did they deliver you ask? Well breaking the game down into its core components we realise that much has gone into improving this game as an overall experience when compared to its (sort of) predecessor, FIFA 10. Right away you are met with colourful and less complex menus that ooze of African art and heritage. Focusing on the graphical aspect of the game, the cinematic cut scenes of the stadium and fans highlight the fact that this game has received a graphical upgrade from FIFA 10. The colours are more vibrant, pitches more “green” and player’s faces look like they have undergone a facelift by the finest plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. The game looks most visibly improved in the default camera angle. Unfortunately though it doesn’t appear any work has gone into the other aspects of the front-end such as player models and kit detail that required the most work upon examination of FIFA 10.
Play the game for a couple of hours and you will begin to notice all the addition to the animations library. Sublime flicks and slick moves all combined with a greater diversity of animations that make the game look less repetitive to the eye. This has become one of my main problems with sports games in general where they fail to make every action in-game look unique based on character personality/physical stature and varying situations/factors. Hopefully the addition of new real-time engines to handle this rather than using predetermined animations will sort this out in the future. But taking nothing away from FWC 2010 this game has managed to progress in an area where FIFA 10 already gained acclaim.
Putting the game through its paces is when you begin to realise the improvement in gameplay that EA Sports have achieved. The gameplay development team have managed to polish up this game and made it what FIFA 10 should have been. More fluid passing play in midfield and the ability to build up play with even average sides reduces the ping-pong aspect of soccer games even further. The controls are also a little tighter and player movement has been adjusted and tweaked in many areas. It’s almost as if you have to play it thoroughly to realise the subtle changes. In my mind I think EA Sports tweaked a couple of gameplay options by moving a few sliders up and down and the results are positive. The introduction of a new penalty taking system is a huge plus, particularly given how important they seem to be in international tournaments. It’s a much more complex system that takes into account many factors that you must be aware of and in control of during the penalty taking process. But I have to say it is about time someone revamped penalty taking in a game, a welcome breath of fresh air.
Simon Humber and Co have clearly spent time looking at various game modes to enhance the player’s experience. By incorporating all teams that were involved in the qualification process and a wealth of game modes, the longevity of this game has truly exceeded expectations. The offline mode that stands out is the Captain Your Country (International Be A Pro) mode, whilst in the online arena a new style online league (FSB Exclusive News) and the online World Cup make for a superb range of game modes that should keep you occupied well after the last ball is kicked in South Africa this summer.
The game does have its shortcoming and a few bugs here and there. I also think its about time that EA overhauled the graphics and art in the FIFA series in general. The final let down is also in the commentary that is often repetitive, dull and non-informative. This however has become a problem in all soccer games over the last few years. A new approach may be required to make commentary a much more rewarding and integral part of the game.
Overall, the EA Sports boys have delivered a great soccer game that will please most soccer video game fans and keep them playing over the summer till the new season starts. With a plethora of game modes, improved gameplay and visuals and the World Cup license this is a game worth buying if you’re a soccer fan.